Sunday, June 16, 2024

A Gift of Time

Once Upon a Time

When she was younger, The Bear and I used to go on many adventures together where it was just the two of us. Everything from flying to hiking to museums in Rochester, we spent a lot of time together. As a teenager busy with school, friends, and various musical endeavors, alone time with The Bear has become rare for me. I do not begrudge it. I understand that it is a necessary part of growing up. Still, I cannot help but reflect fondly on the days when our relationship was a more significant part of her world.

At dinner one night, I mentioned that the Father's Day fly-in pancake breakfast at the Genesee County Airport was scheduled for Sunday, June 16 and asked if anyone wanted to go with me. To my surprise and delight, The Bear volunteered to accompany me. It was the only Father's Day present I ever wanted or needed.

Bear Is My Copilot

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
16 Jun 2024 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - GVQ (Batavia, NY) - 5G0 (Le Roy, NY) - SDC 1.5 2833.3

With The Bear flying right seat for the first time in many months, we launched from Sodus on a beautiful Sunday morning around 7:30 am. It was The Bear's first time hearing what I call the "airport rooster". Sounding so stereotypical that it could be stock audio from a Looney Tunes cartoon, that rooster's crowing can often be heard from my hangar throughout the morning. 

We departed into a smooth, clear sky with Paula and Steve behind us in Nine Four Romeo who were joining for breakfast.

Me and The Bear.

The route to Batavia takes us just south of the suburb where we live and across the city of Rochester. Actively engaged, The Bear scrutinized the ground below for familiar landmarks, grinning with delight whenever she made a connection between her aerial view and the surface map within her memory. Our ground track wiggled more than usual as we transited over the top of Rochester while calling out landmarks below to each other. I loved seeing her so engaged in the moment. In recent years, she has largely shunned the unique outside view at altitude in favor of reading a book.

Approaching Genesee County Airport from the northeast for a landing on runway 10, we found ourselves flying parallel to a Bonanza tracking the ILS-28 instrument approach with an intention of circling to land to 10. We called each other in sight and I deferred to the faster aircraft to lead us into the pattern to land.

On the ground, I discovered that the Bonanza pilot was Mike D, a local retired anesthesiologist who happens to be the roommate of my first supervisor in Kalamazoo while they were both graduate students in Wisconsin. (How's that for an unlikely connection?) The last time I saw Mike was at my FAA third class medical examination in March; he had the appointment immediately before mine. Old guys talking airplanes immediately bored The Bear, but she exercised grace and kindly patience. 

Before long, The Bear, Paula, Steve and I found ourselves enjoying a well-prepared pancake breakfast inside the Boshart Enterprises hangar where Warrior 481 underwent all of her recent avionics upgrades. It was my first time attending a pancake breakfast in Batavia in over a decade.

The Bear walks the flight line at Genesee County Airport.

After breakfast, we investigated a pair of vintage airplanes parked on the grass. The Stearman was not one that I specifically recognized, but had drawn the fascination of a group of children.

The sexy Stinson Reliant parked next to it was immediately recognizable. While I do not know where it is based, I see it annually as a featured display aircraft at Penn Yan's 4th of July pancake breakfasts. There is an undeniably romantic poetry in the Reliant's gracefully tapered wing when viewed against a crisp blue sky.

Return to Le Roy

Warrior 481 was low on fuel and, with the ongoing fuel farm rehabilitation occurring at Sodus, I decided to stop at our former home base of Le Roy for gas. If I had to buy fuel elsewhere, I might as well patronize Ray.

We touched down and parked at the fuel farm. It was only The Bear's second time back to Le Roy since we moved to the Williamson Sodus Airport in May 2013.

Taken 18 August 2012 prior to departing for the Sleeping Bear Dunes from Le Roy.

After fueling, I noted the position of Warrior 481 and was reminded of the morning in 2012 that we departed as a family from Le Roy to visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I suggested an attempt to recreate a favorite photo and The Bear was game.

Twelve years later, the airport and the airplane look the same, but my Little Bear is no longer so little. Without Brown Bear to cradle in her arms, she chose the next most precious thing -- her iPhone. Kids these days...

We made another short hop from Le Roy to Sodus, returning to aerial sightseeing. The Bear handily located her school and some of the places where her cross country team routinely runs for practice.

Best Father's Day Ever

Back at Sodus, we reconnected with Paula and Steve who are in the adjacent hangar bay. As I began to spray down the leading edges of the wings to clean off the bugs, The Bear interrupted.

The Bear pitching in to clean the bugs off of Warrior 481 on 04 July 2010.

"Hey, hey! That's my job!" she said, taking the spray bottle from me and proceeding to soak down the insects smashed along the leading edges of the wings just like she used to as a small child. Working together, we completed the cleanup rapidly.

We did not embark on any kind of grand adventure with a flight to someplace new or particularly exciting, but that was not the point. The Bear's gift to me that morning was one of mature generosity. I love that she was willing to share her increasingly precious time with me for the morning and to accompany me in an activity that was of more interest to me than it was to her. As I watched my nearly adult daughter take on a cleaning task that she relished as a small child -- harkening back to when I was a much bigger part of her whole world than I am today -- I deeply appreciated her simple Father's Day gift of time.

It was the best Father's Day ever. Sometimes the simplest moments are the most precious.

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